Berry Brothers and Rudd’s Sherry Cask

Yet again, Tom van Engelen climbs his pen, as we say in The Netherlands. This time he tries a sherry cask from Berry’s and a 1968 Glen Garioch. Talk about old whisky…


A sherry cask matured whisky can be a case of hit and miss. When it’s good, it is heaven, when it’s bad you want to wash your mouth. When I first got into whisky there was this hype around very young Macallans and Highland Parks bottled in the MacPhail’s Collection or as Speymalt, I don’t exactly remember. Those charming black labels, young whisky roughly between 8 en 10 years old, and as cheap as 28 euro. Yes, those were the days. I should have stocked up. It was THE topic of conversation on the good old fora on whisky websites, because the liquid could be very harsh, the struck matches kind of types, not for the faint of heart. An extreme in the sherry matured whisky universe.

Where are we now, you ask? In better days, even though putting “sherry cask matured” on a label is no guarantee for good stuff. A finish for a few months is a far cry from a decent full blown maturation. But when I look at my whisky cabinet, I can safely say I am in my “sherry phase” right now, following hot on the heals of the “peat phase” that went on for quite a while actually. So, when I look I see Aberlour A’bunadh and the rather difficult Tamdhu batch strength. That last one is actually growing on me, but the bottle being opened was much needed. It was really too austere at first, now it creeps up to Aberlour level. Good development!

My newest addition is the BBR’s sherry cask matured blended malt in The Classic Range. A blended malt, yes, not the most common thing in my stock, I have to say. This was actually an impulse buy. I saw it on a website, the color seduced me, the discount was very nice, and one day later I took out the cork. I like those Douglas Laing expressions so curious how I will enjoy this:

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
A classic sherry nose reminiscent of the medium dry my grandmother used to drink. Not overly “red”, subdued caramel, very balanced and easy to get in to. This is skillfully blended, a true testament to the art.

 

Sip:
It is very easy on the tongue but certainly not boring. This is BBR and Ronnie Cox’s name is on the label so chances are high there is Glenrothes in the mix. Sweet, soft, full bodied, nutty. The balance in this blended malt is amazing. There is no shadow side to this whisky.

Swallow:
The sharp edge that one likes in a finish is absent. I am not sure I entirely miss it. The fact is, despite or thanks to lacking punch, I could down a bottle of this easily (and I will!). What more can we wish for? This is whisky the term “bang for your buck” was invented for.

Score: 85 points.

For balance and clarity: I did not even care that this is a NAS whisky. Good ABV, all is well in the blended malt universe!

So, am I now a convert to blended malt? Well, it is a very good alternative for your everyday dram. When something is really good and straightforward, it can score high praise and/or points (if you care for that). As a whisky enthusiast this is one to drink, not taste and write reviews about. Sometimes we forget to drink, don’t we? Do it with something like this. But of course, one does miss the challenge a good (single) malt provides. So, just for the sake of tasting a real nice sherry monster, let me conclude this blog with a classic and wish you a nice day!

Glen Garioch 1968 – cask #622 

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
An old box that used to be filled with Caribbean cigars, but now hold sweets. Dark chocolate with the subtlest of smoke. 1968 was not only a pivotal year for Bowmore, this Glen Garioch from a single cask is utter brilliance.

Sip:
Oh my, what a peat explosion! If I told you this was a 1995 Bowmore you’d believe me. This screams Islay, and yet it isn’t. The earthy peat and smoke is just mind blowing. This tastes like liquid cigar too. Tea leaves, balanced wood, all kinds of nuts… It’s truly amazing. And totally no off notes whatsoever. Extremely balanced, a one in a million kind of cask.

Swallow:
It’s here where the wood speaks, lots of high quality chocolate and just enough sting to keep you awake. But then you dream of a desert island and peace, in your heart and in your mind. Perfect balance, as can be found in this whisky. My, oh my.

Score: 96 points. These are the holy grails whisky lovers should look for. I don’t dare look at prices for this bottle on auctions. In this case, a high price would be worth it.


About Tom van Engelen

I’m a writer in a variety of fields and have a soft spot for whisky, mainly malt, mainly from Scotland. In other times I enjoyed a stint as editor-in-chief of one of the first whisky magazines in the world. When not sipping a good glass I like to write some more, read, watch 007 movies or listen Bowie music. I’m engaged to Dasha, I have a sweet daughter and I live somewhere between the big rivers in the middle of The Netherlands.

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Benrinnes 1995, 19yo, 52.9% – Signatory

Just a quick tasting note!

Benrinnes is one the blending whiskies from Diageo, with the only official release being older Flora & Fauna releases, and the occasional Diageo Premium releases in autumn.

This one is bottled by Signatory, which more often than not means it’s going to be a good whisky. Especially in their ‘vase series’ they know to pick some good casks, most of the time. Of course, there’s going to be the occasional one that’s not up your alley, but I find that’s more about style than quality.

This one is bottled in 2015, at the decent age of 19 years old. Drawn from a Bourbon Hogshead. It’s even still available in Spain, for € 98

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Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Very fruity with apples and lots of sweet pears. Gentle, with pastry creme and white grapes. Kiwi and dragon fruit. Light notes of chalk, vanilla and malt.

Sip:
Light and fruity. A tad sharp, with chalky notes. Oak, vanilla and pastry. Apples, pears, grapes. Lighter fruits, but lots of them.

Swallow:
Drier on the finish. Fruit, malt, oak. There’s lots of lighter notes.

This actually does everything by the book, if you know what to expect from Benrinnes and bourbon casks. There’s quite a lot of fruit, with some drier notes to give it a bit more depth.

89/100

Benrinnes 1995-2015, 19yo, Hogshead 5895, 52.9%, Signatory Vintage,

Thanks to Rowald for the sample!

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Talisker 8 marks the return of a giant

Tom van Engelen wrote another one of his sort-of-bi-weekly posts on a bottle he found in his collection. Or at least, something that sparked his interest and urge to ramble on a bit!

This time, he tried the new Talisker 8. The only Special Release that’s affordable and actually somewhat more special than the annual Lagavulin and Caol Ila…


 

Talisker 8 is one of the surprises in the Special Releases of 2018. Since the release of the Lagavulin 8 for the 200th anniversary of that distillery, I don’t think that age is too young for a (peated) whisky. So when the chance presented itself to get a sample of the bottle, I did not want to let it pass. I warmed up for this tasting with a Talisker Storm from a few years ago. Actually a quite fine dram, even though it brought Talisker in full NAS mode with the Dark Storm and the Skye in their inventory too. Tasted on its own, this expression is fine. Around the 80 points mark. A notch above it. Fine stuff.

Now, on to the next one. Talisker 8 years old.

talob.08yov12Sniff:
Sweetened smoke, malty. Vanilla cotton candy.

Sip:
Oh my, bloody brilliant. The traditional Talisker pepper like I haven’t tasted since forever. This reminds me of my first time with Talisker. The rocks package of the 10 years old. But on steroids, obviously fuelled by the high abv. I don’t feel any need, however, to dilute this dram. Perfection on the tongue. There is obviously cask influence, first and second fill types. The balance is amazing.

Swallow:
Smooth but powerful. I absolutely love it. It definitely feels much more mature; if I had tasted this blind I would have gone for twice the age on the label. Which goes to show that age is not the most important when a whisky is constructed with such care as this one. Classic Talisker, this reminds me of why I loved stuff from this distillery years ago. I will turn a blind eye to the modern character of this expression.

Score: 90 points!

It’s amazing to be surprised by a whisky like this. It had been a while. And I did put in a few drops of water. I won’t score it, people will think I’ve gone berserk.

After the glass emptied I poured myself Talisker 25 years old bottled in 2004. The vintages around 1980 are magic as far as Talisker goes. Tasting the new 8 years old, I feel the distillery returns to the strong form it only truly shows in the 10 years old these days. Welcome back, old friend.


About Tom van Engelen

I’m a writer in a variety of fields and have a soft spot for whisky, mainly malt, mainly from Scotland. In other times I enjoyed a stint as editor-in-chief of one of the first whisky magazines in the world. When not sipping a good glass I like to write some more, read, watch 007 movies or listen Bowie music. I’m engaged to Dasha, I have a sweet daughter and I live somewhere between the big rivers in the middle of The Netherlands.

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Inchmoan 25yo, 1992-2017, 48.6%

Inchmoan is not really a brand that many people know of. It’s one of the lesser known names used for spirit by the Loch Lomond distillery, with Loch Lomond and Inchmurrin being the more public ones.

Inchmoan is Loch Lomond’s peated whisky but there isn’t much out there. Whiskybase only knows of 13 bottlings, which is close to the most obscure brands out there, for contemporary Scottish brands.

This whisky was used by Rob of De Whiskykoning in one of his tastings. That was September 2017, and I still have the tasting notes for the entire tasting lying around somewhere. With every intention to blog about it at some point. Together with over a hundred scribbled notes, I think.

20181016_213504.jpgSniff:
Straight forward oak, light smoke and marram grass. Ginger, sawdust, bark.

Sip:
Gentle, with lots of dry and dusty oak. Dusty spices with powdered ginger, but also dried grasses, sawdust, and a whiff of smoke.

Swallow:
Slightly coastal, smoky and smooth. Dried grass, maybe some lemongrass. Ginger. Slightly asian, in regards to the style of spices.

This is a cracking whisky. Obviously I think that since I bought the bottle back then and only shared a few samples. I’m very glad I did, as I sit here drinking one the last drams that are going to come from it. The flavors I’d normally associate with the west coast of Scotland are all here. It’s rather coastal, with all kinds of dry grasses and windswept dunes. Surprisingly since Loch Lomond is quite a ways inland.

Anyway, a great whisky and I’m glad I’m not the only one to think so. Both Serge and Angus rated it 90 points as well.

90/100

Inchmoan 25yo, 1992-2017, Refill Bourbon Barrels, 48.6%. Around € 225-240 or so

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Knappogue Castle NAS, Early fifties, 92 proof

This is a bit of a weird one, and it was a rather expensive one. A few years ago Stefan van der Boog, known from Passie voor Whisky bought a bottle of very old Knappogue Castle from a collection. Based on comparisons with other labels (there wasn’t much information on it) it was dated as being distileld in the early fifties and bottled after a couple of decades. The label closest to this one was a 1951 vintage, bottled in 1987.

So, expectations were high, especially with Irish whiskey gaining massive popularity right around that time (when this share was done, that is). I paid a couple of tenners for a sample of this and never really got around to properly tasting it. I did have a sip of it, but wasn’t overjoyed back then. The typical ‘old Irish winegums wrapper’ scent was rather prevalent.

Last week, I did sit down for a proper tasting of this rather obscure whiskey, and it wasn’t as bad as I had feared.

Sniff:
Very old fashioned, but very typicslly Irish. A sweetness than smells a bit artificial, with lots of sugar. Barley sugar, a gentle oakiness, with some green malt.

Sip:
Dry with lots of barley. A bit of a winegum sweetness, with hints of the plastic bag they come from. The old-fashioned-ness comes in later. A certain woody texture of spices and sawdust.

Swallow:
The chemical sweetness is getting a bit too much here. It’s sweet, plastic like and there are only hints of oak and spices. Quite alot of barley still.

20181007_142513.jpgSo, yes, the winegums sweetness and the cloying scent if you smell the bag winegums come from is here. It’s not as pronounced on the nose and palate as it sometimes is, but on the finish it rears its ugly head. A shame, because that puts the rating down a couple of notches.

Also, after having tasted this, and some 1930s and 1940s Jameson as well as some other random older Irish stuff, I can say that it’s not entirely my cup of tea.

That weird sweetness I think comes from the use of unmalted barley, since that’s the biggest (if not only) difference between Irish pot still whiskey and Scottish single malt.

I just happen to not like it very much.

Still, there are quite some flavors to like, albeit not enough to give this a huge score, and not enough to warrant the price tag belonging to this sample.

82/100

Knappogue Castle NAS, Early fifties, 92 proof

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Glen Moray 1994-2016, 21yo, 55.5% – SMWS (35.159 – Waves of Intensity)

One of these samples that I found in my stash when selecting which drams to bring on the summer holiday. I only looked it up now and saw that it was drawn from a ‘toasted hogshead’, which is an interesting thing. There are probably quite some whiskies out there from toasted casks, but apart from some 14 year old Glenfiddich from years ago, I can’t think of any.

This 21 year old from the SMWS is not something that would normally spark my interest, but I think I got the sample based on a recommendation by Ben Cops. He is kind of a regular customer of SMWS whiskies.

So, this review has been idling in my ‘to post’ list for quite a while now, and I decided to review it today since in eight days I’ll finally be touring Glen Moray. I’ve visited the shop once before, because we had about 45 minutes to kill before we had to head on to BenRiach in 2013. Now we’re going to be in the area again, and I wanted to do a tour on which I can bring the kids. I think they need to see why daddy loves whisky so much, and a first hand experience like that could help a lot!

GM

Image from Whisky Auctioneer

Sniff:
Sweet and very fruity with hints of mango, pear and peach. Some custard like hints in the background. A gentle oakiness too.

Sip:
A lot stronger than the nose suggests, with quite some alcohol heat. Still sweet and lots of tropical fruit. Peach, nectarine, mango. The heat turns into dry oak.

Swallow:
Dry on the finish, with a firm afterburner. Very warming and a hint of the light spirit shines through. Rather long.

Gorgeous! I didn’t really know what to expect when I opened it, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I think, in general, the SMWS and Glen Moray are a very good partnership with some splendid results in the past. This one fits that list nicely and it’s one of those whiskies I wouldn’t mind having a bottle of!

The toasted oak is an interesting twist and makes it a lot fruitier than I’d normally expect. What’s interesting is that, at least to me, it starts to taste more like a sherry cask than it normally would. This goes some way to underscore the importance of oak, although I do think the fruity spirit of Glen Moray is a large factor as well.

90/100

Glen Moray 1994-2016, 21 years old, 1st fill Toasted Hogshead, 55.5%, SMWS 35.159 “Waves of Intensity”. Of course this is only available through the secondary market and should cost around 100 euros.

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Lagavulin, Islay Jazz Festival 2017, 57.6%

About a year ago Benny, from our whisky club, went to Islay and I asked him to pick up some bottles for me. This was one of them, but I never got around to properly reviewing it yet.

Yesterday I was sitting down with a late night dram and there wasn’t much left in the bottle (some 5cl or so) after I poured it. My thoughts, logically (because who needs sleep) I figured the best thing to do was to finish the bottle and finally write those tasting notes.

Lagavulin doesn’t do many special releases, and most of their whiskies follow a very strict set of rules. Lagavulin 16 is consistent, as is the annual 12 year old at cask strength. Then there’s the Distiller’s Edition (also always good). Apart from those there have been some very expensive and rare private casks over the last two or three years. Then there’s the Islay Jazz Festival release. This one. Always a NAS release at cask strength, if I’m not mistaken.

Of course that doesn’t make it any less good than age stated Lagavulins. True in this case, in a lot of other distillery’s cases not so much.

20181011_223327.jpgSniff:
A heavy smoke hangs over a gently grassy whisky. It might even be a bit diesel like. Marram grass and some dry, green oak. Thyme twigs with some other herbs. Apple seeds and cores. So, slightly bitter and with a hint of minerals, iron, slate.

Sip:
A tingle of the high ABV which builds to quite a sharp sip of whisky. Peaty, smoky, salty with notes of brine, marram and oak. Some straw, sea weed, oak, and peat. I’m not getting the bitter note now.

Swallow:
The finish is quite tannic with a rather leathery effect on your tongue. I did have a bit of a large sip, so that increases the burn. The finish is long with what I can only imagine a brushfire in a peat field would smell like. Oak, brine, sea weed, marram grass, straw, peat and smoke, and a hint of leather.

Exactly what you’d expect from a cask strength Lagavulin. Which is a very good thing! This does tick all the boxes if you know what to expect. The more available Lagavulins (16yo and Distiller’s Edition) do have sherry casks in the mix, which makes this one significantly less sweet than those.

When this came out it set you back 100 pounds. Not exactly cheap, but that’s what this kind of whisky goes for nowadays. Available through the Whiskybase Marketplace for more than that.

89/100

Lagavulin, Islay Jazz Festival 2017, 57.6%

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